March 29, 2013

if

  I covet any place on earth but the
dust at the foot of the cross,
  then I know nothing of Calvary love.

                                       Amy Carmichael

March 26, 2013

Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret

WOW! This is an amazing story of a life lived fully for the Lord. I'll get to his 'Spiritual Secret' in a bit but a little description of the book and Hudson Taylor first.

Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China. Born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England in 1832. He became a doctor and then sailed to China with the Chinese Evangelization Society in 1853. Thus began his life's mission to share Christ with the people of China.

This book was so refreshing. I find so many today, not only water-down the gospel, prayer, and Bible reading but water-down Jesus.

Not Hudson Taylor.

After reading this book I want to spend more time with Jesus, more time reading His Word and wait on Him to work in me.

I'll be honest, some of the book did drag on a bit, but it was so worth it to get to the good parts. And there are a lot of good parts!

One of my favorite parts was the story of his conversion.

Like so many others I've read, Hudson Taylor had a praying mother. A mother who spend countless hours on her knees for the salvation of her children. If you are a mother, never give up on your children, keep them in your prayers always. I've read so many stories of those who came to Christ late in their life because of a praying mother. Don't give up, God hears you.

'Praise the LORD.  Blessed are those who fear the LORD, who find great delight in his commands. Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.'  Psalms 112:1-2

Hudson decided to one day pick up one of his father's books and began to read.

He read the words, 'The finished work of Christ.'

Hudson thought:

"Why does the writer use those words?' he questioned. 'Why does he not say, 'the atoning or propitiatory work of Christ?'

Immediately, It is finished shone out as in letters of light. Finished? What was finished?

'A full and perfect atonement for sin,' his heart replied. 'The debt was paid by the great Substitute. Christ died for our sins,' and 'not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.'

Then came the thought with startling clearness, 'If the whole work is finished, the whole debt paid, what is there left for me to do?'

The one, the only answer took possession of his soul: 'There was nothing in the world for me to do save to fall upon my knees and accepting this Savior and His salvation to praise Him for evermore.'

'Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'   Jeremiah 33:3

I loved this so much! How many of us have books on our bookshelves that could lead our child to Christ?

God then put a deep desire to go to China in Hudson Taylor's heart, but the way was not easy and he had to learn to completely trust in God. Finances were a big obstacle as it is for many. God taught Hudson to trust in Him to supply.

Hudson writes here to his sister:

"His love is unfailing, His word unchangeable, His power ever the same, therefore the heart that trusts Him is kept in 'perfect peace'...I know He tries me only to increase my faith, and that it is all in love. Well, if He is glorified, I am content."

Hudson Taylor and the mission that was set up never solicited for money, yet God always provided, many times just in time!

Once in China he had hurdle after hurdle. Here was a place where no protestant missionary had come before. Foreigners were looked on suspiciously, housing was difficult to find and He was often laughed at because of his clothing and speech.

He decided to dress himself in Chinese dress and found it made a world of difference. The people were able to listen to what he had to say instead of laughing at his English clothing! They wanted to hear what this Englishman who dressed like them had to say.

He wrote of his troubles to his sister and said:

"You ask how I get over my troubles. This is the way...I take them to the Lord. Since writing the above, I have been reading my evening portion - Psalms 72 to 74. Read them and see how applicable they are. I don't know how it is, but I can seldom read Scripture now without tears of joy and gratitude..."

Hudson Taylor went through struggle after struggle. Losing many people in his life he loved dearly, including his wife and some of his children. He also had to deal with illness throughout his own life. The enemy worked hard to overcome Hudson Taylor, but ultimately failed. Praise be to God! God always works all things for good to those who love Him!

So now onto Hudson Taylor's spiritual secret.

It came to him through a letter written by his friend John McCarthy. Here's a portion of the letter:

"...Do you know, I now think that this striving, longing, hoping for better days to come is not the true way to holiness, happiness or usefulness. It is better, no doubt, far better than being satisfied with poor attainments, but not the best way after all. I have been struck with a passage from a book...entitled Christ is All. It says,

'He is most holy who has most of Christ within, and joys most fully in the finished work. It is defective faith which clogs the feet and causes many to fall.'

This last sentence, I think I now fully endorse. To let my loving Savior work in me His will, my sanctification, is what I would live for by His grace. Abiding, not striving nor struggling; looking off unto Him; trusting Him for present power;...resting in the love of an almighty Savior, in the joy of a complete salvation, 'from all sin' - this is not new, and yet 'tis new to me. I feel as though the dawning of a glorious day had risen upon me. I hail it with trembling, yet with trust. I seem to have got to the edge only, but of a boundless sea; to have sipped only, but of that which fully satisfies. Christ literally all seems to me, now, the power, the only power for service, the only ground for unchanging joy...

How then to have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is and all He is for us: His life, His death, His work, He Himself as revealed to us in the Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts. Not a striving to have faith...but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need; a resting in the Loved One entirely, for time and for eternity."

Hudson Taylor later wrote of this letter:

"As I read, I saw it all, I looked to Jesus, and when I saw - oh, how joy flowed!"

Hudson says of this secret:

"The secret was that Jesus was satisfying the deep thirst of the heart and soul."

"It was resting in Jesus now, and letting Him do the work - which makes all the difference."

We often encourage each other to be like Jesus, but the real secret is not striving to be like Jesus but to abide in Jesus. Abide in Him completely.

Abide:

1. to remain; continue; stay
2. to have one's abode; dwell; reside
3. to continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship, etc.; last.

This chapter (14) goes on to share a letter Hudson Taylor wrote to his sister about his experience. It is a beautiful letter, a letter that moved his sister "to enter into this rest of faith" as well. The letter itself is to long to share here, but I highly recommend you find a way to read it!

The author of this book, which was Hudson's son, says here:

"God was first in Hudson Taylor's life - not the work, not the needs of China or of the Mission, not his own experiences. He knew that the promise was true, 'Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."

...and here he quotes Oswald Chambers:

"God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome."

...and continues:

"To him, the secret of overcoming lay in daily, hourly fellowship with God; and this, he found, could only be maintained by secret prayer and feeding upon the Word through which He reveals Himself to the waiting soul."

The author finished the book with these words:

"The hardest part of a missionary career, Mr. Taylor found, is to maintain regular, prayerful Bible study. 'Satan will always find you something to do,' he would say, 'when you ought to be occupied about that, if it is only arranging a window blind.' Fully would he have endorsed the weighty words:

Then he quotes Andrew Murray:

"Take time. Give God time to reveal Himself to you. Give yourself time to be silent and quiet before Him, waiting to receive, through the Spirit, the assurance of His presence with you, His power working in you. Take time to read His Word as in His presence, that from it you may know what He asks of you and what He promises you. Let the Word create around you, create within you a holy atmosphere, a holy heavenly light, in which your soul will be refreshed and strengthened for the work of daily life."

The book ends with this powerful quote by E.M. Bounds:

"The past has not exhausted the possibilities nor the demands for doing great things for God. The church that is dependent on its past history for its miracles of power and grace is a fallen church...

The greatest benefactor this age could have is the man who will bring the teachers and the church back to prayer."

Communion with the living God through prayer is so much more than we can comprehend. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is when Jesus prays for us as believers. A prayer of oneness, a prayer that we will abide in Him.

This prayer always humbles me. The Savior of the world, on his knees, praying for me, praying for you.


"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 

that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 

I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 

I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

                                                                              John 17:20-26 

Buy it HERE  on Amazon


 

March 22, 2013

if

I slip into the place that can be filled
        by Christ alone,
      making myself the first necessity to
        a soul instead of leading it to
        fasten upon Him,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

                                      Amy Carmichael


March 17, 2013

A Re-Post of How the Irish Saved Civilization

I wrote this post a couple of years ago and thought I'd share it again this St. Patrick's Day. Patrick was certainly a man to look up to and this book gives some great insights, with all legends set aside, into who he was and what he accomplished with God's help.

Originally posted September 7, 2011:

I read this book, "How the Irish Saved Civilization" several years ago, and it was one of those books that stuck with me and I still think about. The book starts the readers off with the fall of the Roman Empire and continues through Ireland's early history and how their devoted monks preserved books and writing that would have otherwise been destroyed during the turbulent times of the Roman Fall. I especially loved the chapter on the first missionary to Ireland...Patrick. The book starts out like this:

"The word Irish is seldom coupled with the word civilization. When we think of peoples as civilized or civilizing, the Egyptians and the Greeks, the Italians and the French, the Chinese and the Jews may come to mind. The Irish are wild, feckless, and charming, or morose, repressed, and corrupt, but not especially civilized...And yet...Ireland, a little island at the edge of Europe that has known neither renaissance nor Enlightenment--in some ways, a Third World country with...a Stone Age culture--had one moment of unblemished glory. For, as the Roman Empire fell, as all through Europe matted, unwashed barbarians descended on the Roman cities, looting artifacts and burning books, the Irish, who were just learning to read and write, took up the great labor of copying all of Western literature--everything they could lay their hands on."

I thought I'd share some thoughts on my favorite chapter..."Good News from Far Off...The First Missionary"

Patricius, later known as St. Patrick was a British Shepard boy who was kidnapped at 16 and taken to Ireland to work as a slave. Up till then he had never really believed in God but now with no one to help him he begin to pray. He says here:

"Tending flocks was my daily work, and I would pray constantly during the daylight hours. The love of God and the fear of him surrounded me more and more and faith grew and the Spirit was roused, so that in one day I would say many as a hundred prayers and after dark nearly as many again, even while I remained in the woods or on the mountain. I would wake and pray before daybreak--through snow, frost, rain--nor was there any sluggishness in me (such as I experience nowadays) because then the Spirit within me was ardent."

He was a slave for 6 years. Then one day he heard the Lord say "your hungers are rewarded: you are going home." "Look your ship is ready." When he arrived at the ship that would take him to freedom, the sailors told him he was wasting his time asking to sail with them. Patrick went away and prayed. When he returned the sailors had had a change of heart and said, "Come on board, we'll take you on trust."

It would be almost 30 years before he returned to Ireland. He is considered the first missionary to go and preach the gospel... "to barbarians beyond the reach of Roman law."

The thing that stood out the most for me in this chapter was, as the author states here... "His love for his adopted people (the Irish) shines through his writings, and it is not just a generalized "Christian" benevolence, but a love for individuals as they are." He didn't go to Ireland to convert the Irish to his religion but to share the love of God with them. He brought the gospel to the people there. At a time when the Irish were offering sacrifices to their gods, even sacrificing their own children, Patrick came and brought  a message of the Creator who gave up His son, Jesus Christ, to be sacrificed once for all. A message that changed the lives of the Irish there forever.

So many wonderful things in this chapter of how God worked through Patrick and answered his prayers. Even the high druid priests were afraid of him! Within Patrick's lifetime or soon after his death the Irish slave trade came to a halt and violence dramatically decreased in Ireland.


Patrick went and make disciples of Christ, "establishing bishops throughout northern, central, and eastern Ireland..." In the years to come the Irish monks would dedicate their lives to preserving the written word, when the Barbarians had destroyed so much of it... "Wherever they went the Irish brought with them their books, many unseen in Europe for centuries and tied to their waists as signs of triumph, just as Irish heroes had once tied to their waists their enemies' heads. Wherever they went they brought their love of learning and their skills in bookmaking. In the bays and valleys of their exile, they reestablished literacy and breathed new life into the exhausted literary culture of Europe. 
And that is how the Irish saved civilization."

Buy it HERE on Amazon




March 15, 2013

if

in dealing with one who does not
        respond,
    I weary of the strain, and slip
        from under the burden
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

                                     Amy Carmichael

March 12, 2013

Just a Minute


Wess Stafford is the president and CEO of Compassion International and I have to say this book is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read and if you only read one of my posts please read this one! : )

This book is filled with stories of people like you and me. People whose lives were affected by a word of encouragement. A word spoken in just a minute.

These stories will make you cry, not out of sadness but out of joy and the difference a kind word spoken to a child can make.

First of all it's important to understand what real poverty is. The poverty of the heart. Wess talks about poverty and what is really is here:

"...I grew up in a poverty-stricken West African village where over half of my childhood friends died before I was fifteen years old. 

I know poverty, 

I hate poverty. 

I hate what it does to little children.

Its worst aspects, however are not the lack of clean water or sanitation or housing. It's not even the lack of money. Those things, tragic as they are, are not poverty. They are just the symptoms that dominate life when poverty is around. 

Yes, it's good to attack the externals and eliminate them. But I know from my childhood, my academic studies, and now decades of serving the poor that the real root of poverty lies well beneath these visible conditions. It's the message it breathes into the heart of even very little children: 

Give up. Nobody cares about you. Nothing will ever change. You are nothing and always will be.

Oh, the surrounding circumstances contribute to that worldview, to be sure. But when that hopeless life message finds root in a child's heart (and it can happen very early in life), the spirit of the child begins to shrivel. It wilts like a flower in the heat. The eyes grow downcast; the twinkle is gone. The fire begins to go out.

What we at Compassion do is rush to those dying embers before the glow is gone completely. With the local church, our staff, and sponsors at the distance, we frantically fan those embers until a proof of flame bursts forth. It's a beautiful thing to see..."

Wess says here of the importance of encouraging words:

"At Compassion International, we repeatedly tell our sponsors that their most valuable gift to the child with whom they are linked is not the monthly check that supports their education and health care. It's their prayers and words of encouragement through letters from a world away."

Helping the poor with external needs is a good thing, but its not enough. People need Jesus. They need to know the One who has unconditional love for them. Wess says later:

"If we only attend to children's physical health, diet, education, and self-image, we cheat them terribly. To paraphrase Jesus, what shall it profit it a boy or girl if we care for their body, mind, and emotions, yet lose their soul? That is why Compassion International keeps careful track of how many sponsored children around the world welcome Christ into their little hearts. Last year, the total was 152,000. That's more than 400 each day."

Wess giving a young child a hug :)

Near the middle of the book Wess shares his own story and I was shocked at the abuse he suffered as a child in a missionary school in Africa, which he attended while his parents were on the mission field. But the most amazing thing is how God took those horrible experiences and used them for good. You have to read his story!

There are so many great stories in this book. One of my favorites was of a little girl named Jessica. She was 6 years old when Wess spoke to a group of children in Indonesia. She was sitting in the front row and he picked her up and put her on his lap and said to all:

"Do you know how precious you all are to God? He knows you and loves you more than anything else in the world. Like this little girl...Do any of you know her name?"

'Jessica', they all called out....Jesus knows Jessica's name, but do any of you know how many hairs she has on her head?"

There was silence.

"Jesus does! He loves little Jessica so much that He keeps track of everything about her, even the number of hairs on her head."

"Did you ever look closely at the tips of your fingers? See those tiny lines, that little design? Jesus made every one of you unique, special."

Wess took Jessica's little fingers in his hands and continued:

"God loves Jessica so much he drew her very own picture on her fingers like nobody else's in the whole world."

Jessica looked at her fingers and smiled. She then snuggled deeper into Wess's arms.

Wess spoke again:

"God knew her before she was even born. He knit her in her mama's womb. And look - he made her beautiful, gave her her very own laugh, her beautiful eyes. He knows exactly what she will be when she grows up. She has no idea how special she is to God, and how loved. Jesus would have died on the cross for her even if she was the only child on earth!"

Wess says the room went suddenly quiet and he could see people in the room  about to cry. Something was happening he didn't understand.

The pastor leaned over and said to Wess when he had finished speaking:

"You couldn't possibly have known - but if ever a little girl needed to be lovingly held and affirmed, it was Jessica right now."

He later found out this little 6 year old girl Jessica, who hugged him even more when he tried to put her down, had been brutally raped a month before. The rapist got off with no penalty, no jail, but just had to pay a bribe of $300. No justice for this little girl was served. They told Wess:

"We are amazed that she would even let you, a man, pick her up and hold her in your arms."

Wess finishes this story with this:

"Years have passed since that incident, and I'm told that our brief moment together was the beginning of her healing. She is beginning to blossom again in mind, soul and spirit.

I carry a picture of Jessica with me now. I am so grateful that I got to be a part of a 'moment' that is healing and transforming her life day by day."

Wow and that is just one story from this book!

As I read through this book I tried to think of a moment of encouragement I experienced as a child. One that sticks out to me is from my 7th grade teacher.

I struggled in elementary school and often felt stupid. I just couldn't get a good mark in anything and I felt like a failure. I was painfully shy as a child and was often picked on and made fun of. I also had a hard time connecting with people because of my introvertedness. My child's heart was often in turmoil because of these things, but I never talked about it.

At the end of my grade 7 year my teacher awarded me with the Citizenship Award. I was dumbfounded. I hardly spoke in school, but she saw something in me I didn't see and it gave me confidence going into high school.

All through high school I was on the 'B' honor roll, I made some wonderful friends, who are still close friends today and had some great teachers who instilled my love of history and reading. I truly believe receiving that award in 7th grade, whether I deserved it or not, made a huge difference in my life.

Do you have a story of a moment of kindness or encouragement that made a difference in your childhood? I'd love to hear it.

I highly, highly recommend this book! It will make a difference in the way you look at children and how you interact with them. And it could make a huge difference in a child in your life. : )

Buy it HERE at Amazon



March 8, 2013

if

when I am able to discover something
         which has baffled others,
    I forget Him who revealeth the
         deep and secret things, and
         knoweth what is in the darkness
         and showeth it to us;
if I forget that it was He who
         granted that ray of light to His
         most unworthy servant,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

                                    Amy Carmichael

March 7, 2013

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

I really enjoyed reading this historical novel about The Lincoln's and the woman who, not only made Mrs. Lincoln's dresses, but became a good friend to them both.

The introduction states:

"Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born a slave. She earned her freedom by the skill of her needle and won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln with her devotion."

This book was filled with a good balance of dialog and history. Though if you are not a history fan you may find some of it a bit dry. I personally loved it. : )

It starts out on election day November 1860, when Mr. Lincoln became the sixteenth President of the United States. Elizabeth is a well-loved dressmaker in Washington City and in March of 1861 she is asked by Mrs. Lincoln to become her personal modiste (fashionable dressmaker).

Here begins a four year long friendship with the Lincolns filled with good times and many sorrows. 

Mrs. Lincoln came to depended on Elizabeth as a stable and encouraging friend when she herself was often not liked by her peers. She was prone to hysterics and often spoke her mind when she shouldn't have. In Mr. Lincoln frequent absents, Elizabeth was often her rock.

Elizabeth Keckley
Elizabeth's dressmaking skills were well known and sought after. Here are a couple of the beautiful gowns she made for Mrs. Lincoln. 





I found myself admiring Mr. Lincoln even more after reading this book. He was such a kind, thoughtful and good-natured man. He sincerely cared for people and worked diligently to set the slaves in his country free.

President Lincoln was well loved and it was humbling to hear of black men and women, who had been slaves at one time in their lives, praying together for a white leader. During a freedom rally at a church Elizabeth visited, the pastor ended his sermon with this great commission which really moved me:

"Just before midnight, the minister's tone changed again. 'At this time I want no one to pray standing up with bowed head,' he intoned. 'No sister sitting down, with bended neck praying, and no brother kneeling on one knee, because his pants are too tight for him. I want all of us to get down on both knees to thank Almighty God for our freedom and for President Lincoln too."

This next passage from the book really struck me as well. Mrs. Lincoln is trying to teach her son Tad, and he is being very difficult. Elizabeth is looking on and thinking:

"Then it occurred to her that if Tad had been a colored boy rather than the son of a president, and a teacher had found him so difficult to instruct, he would have been ridiculed as a dunce and held up as evidence of the inferiority of the entire race. Tad was bright; Elizabeth knew that well, and she was sure that with proper instruction and hard work, a glimmer of his father's genius would show in him too. But Elizabeth knew many black boys Tad's age who could read and write beautifully, and yet the myth of inferiority persisted. The unfairness of the assumptions stung, If a white child appeared dull, he and he alone was thought to suffer from a lack of intelligence or a deficient education, but if a colored boy appeared dull, the entire race was deemed unintelligent. It seemed to Elizabeth that if one race should not be judged by a single example, then neither should any other."

Oh how true and sad this is still today. So many still judge a whole nation or nationality on a few. We need to look at people as individuals.

I felt such pity and sadness in Mrs. Lincoln's part of the story. Three sons passed away before they reached adulthood and of course the loss of her beloved husband. She sought solace in things, such as mediums, instead of in God and never seemed to find peace.

A Lincoln Family Portrait painted after their second son, Edward had passed away

After President Lincoln was assassinated Mrs. Lincoln received a letter from Queen Victoria of England, which was so thoughtful and prized above any other letter of condolences she received. Here is the letter:

Dear Madam,

   Though a stranger to you I cannot remain silent when so terrible a calamity has fallen upon you & your country, & must personally express my deep & heartfelt sympathy with you under the shocking circumstances of your present dreadful misfortune.

   No one can better appreciate than I can who am myself utterly brokenhearted by the loss of my beloved husband, who was the light of my life - my stay - my all - what you suffering must be; and I earnestly pray that you may be supported by Him to whom alone the sorely stricken can look for comfort in this hour of heavy affliction.

   With the renewed expression of true sympathy, I remain, dear madam,

   Your sincere friend, Victoria 

Queen Victoria didn't have to write such a personal letter to someone she had never met, but she did and it was a great comfort to Mrs. Lincoln.

A portion of the original letter
Mrs. Lincoln was an addictive shopper and continually over spent. After President Lincoln's death she was in debt and decided to sell her many dresses. They weren't selling and she ended up getting herself involved with some swindlers who convinced her they could sell the dress. She ended up losing more money. This was even more devastating to Mrs. Lincoln and her reputation. All along this trying time Elizabeth stood by her side and tried to help the best she could.

Elizabeth decided to write a book to vindicate Mrs. Lincoln and the gossip that surrounded her. Unfortunately it backfired and made Mrs. Lincoln even more embarrassed. She then severed ties with Elizabeth forever.

The book Elizabeth wrote included private letters Mrs. Lincoln had written Elizabeth, which the publishers printed at the end of the book without Elizabeth's consent. Elizabeth was mortified. I recently picked up this book and have just begun reading it, and I have to say when I started reading these letters, though she is long gone, I felt like I was intruding on the first lady's privacy. They are so personal. She was a hurting woman who had lost so much in her life and never seemed to find peace.

I also felt for Elizabeth and how her book ruined her reputation and career. She had such good intentions to bring Mrs. Lincoln into a better light among her peers, but instead the book hurt them both.

'Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker' was such a great book. I enjoyed spending time in the White House with the Lincoln's and the many people, especially Elizabeth, who shared it.

Buy it HERE on Amazon



March 4, 2013

The Bible Mini-Series

Last night we watched the beginning of the new ten part mini-series, The Bible. I thought it was very good. Not the greatest visual effects, but good acting and true to the Biblical stories.

There is just something about these stories that are so powerful.


Over the years of reading my Bible I've noticed a theme within its pages.

God is saying these five things over and over:

I LOVE YOU

COME TO ME

REPENT

TRUST IN ME

REST IN ME

I loved how each character, Noah, Abraham and Moses, in this first episode, repeatedly would encourage the people around them to trust in God. That's what serving God is all about, resting and obeying in trust, repenting when you fall and knowing you are always loved.

I thought it was creative the way they started this series off with Noah, during the 40 days of rain in the ark, telling his family the story of creation.

My favorite part of this first episode was the story of Abraham. I loved how the characters in this story were portrayed. Abraham was so excited about following God (He really was and is in love with God)  : )

I believe Abraham not only loved Issac, but Ismael as well. I loved how they showed Abraham's heartbreak when Sarah had Hagar and Ismael sent away. Though Issac was the chosen one God used to fulfill His promises and show Himself to us, God loved Ismael just as much and promised and blessed him with a great nation.

"And God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, "What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. "Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation." Genesis 21: 17-18

The scene when Abraham takes Issac to be sacrificed, was probably the most powerful scene. My daughter and I discussed afterwards what Issac must have been feeling. His own father, whom he loved dearly was about to kill him!

She asked me, 'do you think Issac was mad at his dad after that?' and 'how do you think Abraham felt when Issac asked, 'Father, where is the lamb for the burnt offering?' Such  great questions! I wonder if Issac fully understood the big picture of what God was doing that day. I'm just starting to understand it myself.

A.W. Tozer in his book, The Pursuit of God, writes in chapter two about this very thing. It opened my eyes to what happened that day and so I thought I'd share part of it here:

"...In the story of Abraham and Isaac we have a dramatic picture of the surrendered life as well as an excellent commentary on the first Beatitude.

Abraham was old when Isaac was born, old enough indeed to have been his grandfather, and the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart. From that moment when he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms he was an eager love slave of his son. God went out of His way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is not hard to understand. The baby represented everything sacred to his father's heart: the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the years and the long messianic dream. As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son, till at last the relationship bordered upon the perilous. It was then that God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love.

 "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

The sacred writer spares us a close-up of the agony that night on the slopes near Beersheba when the aged man had it out with his God, but respectful imagination may view in awe the bent form and convulsive wrestling alone under the stars. Possibly not again until a Greater than Abraham wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane did such mortal pain visit a human soul. If only the man himself might have been allowed to die. That would have been easier a thousand times, for he was old now, and to die would have been no great ordeal for one who had walked so long with God. Besides, it would have been a last sweet pleasure to let his dimming vision rest upon the figure of his stalwart son who would live to carry on the Abrahamic line and fulfill in himself the promises of God made long before in Ur of the Chaldees.

How should he slay the lad! Even if he could get the consent of his wounded and protesting heart, how could he reconcile the act with the promise, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called"? This was Abraham's trial by fire, and he did not fail in the crucible. While the stars still shone like sharp white points above the tent where the sleeping Isaac lay, and long before the gray dawn had begun to lighten the east, the old saint had made up his mind. He would offer his son as God had directed him to do, and then trust God to raise him from the dead. This, says the writer to the Hebrews, was the solution his aching heart found sometime in the dark night, and he rose "early in the morning" to carry out the plan. It is beautiful to see that, while he erred as to God's method, he had correctly sensed the secret of His great heart. And the solution accords well with the New Testament Scripture, "Whosoever will lose for my sake shall find."

God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect, "It's all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there. I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou bast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me."

Then heaven opened and a voice was heard saying to him,  

"By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son--  blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

The old man of God lifted his head to respond to the Voice, and stood there on the mount strong and pure and grand, a man marked out by the Lord for special treatment, a friend and favorite of the Most High. Now he was a man wholly surrendered, a man utterly obedient, a man who possessed nothing. He had concentrated his all in the person of his dear son, and God had taken it from him. God could have begun out on the margin of Abraham's life and worked inward to the center; He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and have it over in one sharp act of separation. In dealing thus He practiced an economy of means and time. It hurt cruelly, but it was effective.

I have said that Abraham possessed nothing. Yet was not this poor man rich? Everything he had owned before was his still to enjoy: sheep, camels, herds, and goods of every sort. He had also his wife and his friends, and best of all he had his son Isaac safe by his side. He had everything, but he possessed nothing. There is the spiritual secret. There is the sweet theology of the heart which can be learned only in the school of renunciation. The books on systematic theology overlook this, but the wise will understand.

After that bitter and blessed experience I think the words "my" and "mine" never had again the same meaning for Abraham. The sense of possession which they connote was gone from his heart. Things had been cast out forever. They had now become external to the man. His inner heart was free from them. The world said, "Abraham is rich," but the aged patriarch only smiled. He could not explain it to them, but he knew that he owned nothing, that his real treasures were inward and eternal..."

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March 1, 2013

if

my attitude be one of fear, not faith,
        about one who has disappointed
        me;
if I say, 'Just what I expected,' if a
        fall occurs,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

                                     Amy Carmichael
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